During Covid Freedom is Suppressed

Rev 6:7, 8 NCV When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider was named death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill people by war, by starvation, by disease, and by the wild animals of the earth.

Important Takeaways:

  • How These Western Countries Suppressed Freedom During COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Dennis Prager “Looking at the government overreach and abuses of power in virtually every other Western nation, one can only conclude that America truly is the last free man standing.”
  • Canada – Canada is one of the only countries in the world that bans the unvaccinated from all public transportation—airplanes, trains, and buses. And no Canadian home can entertain more than three non-household visitors—a ban that prevented families and friends from getting together for Christmas.
  • Europe – most European countries introduced the so-called health pass or “European COVID-19 Pass.”
  • Netherlands – anti-lockdown protest was banned by the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, because people would “not be adhering to social distancing rules.” Thousands of people nevertheless showed up. They were met with drones, water cannons, and huge numbers of police. Footage capturing a police dog biting down on a peaceful protester’s arm has gone viral.
  • France – Starting next week, working from home will become compulsory for those who can. So, too, wearing a mask is compulsory throughout the country for everyone aged 11 and over in enclosed spaces and on public transport, on pain of a fine.
  • Australia – Australia placed most of its citizens under house arrest for much of 2021. Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, described by the Voice of America on Oct. 21 as “officially the world’s most locked down city,” was locked down 260 days.  Residents were prohibited from traveling more than 5 kilometers from their homes. Schools were, and remain, closed, and international travel was, and remains, prohibited. Needless to say, all shops, bars, and restaurants were closed.

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Spain’s La Palma lifts lockdown imposed after volcano soured air quality

By Marco Trujillo

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – Authorities in Spain’s La Palma lifted a stay-at-home order on Monday just a few hours after telling people to stay indoors due to poor air quality caused by the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

The eruption, which has sent spectacular rivers of molten lava running down the slopes of Cumbre Vieja for nearly three months, is the longest running on the Spanish Canary island since records began in 1500.

Around 24,500 residents in Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Tazacorte – a third of La Palma’s inhabitants – were asked to stay indoors due to emissions of sulphur dioxide that had reached “extremely adverse” levels, authorities said.

In affected municipalities, residents were told to stay inside, while students were told to remain in schools and parents not to pick them up until the air quality cleared.

However, a few hours later, emergency services lifted the order thanks to an improvement in air quality data and said students would leave school at the regular time.

“We’re all a bit scared,” said 64-year old Carlos Ramos in Los Llanos de Aridane, explaining that nothing similar had happened with previous eruptions on the island.

“We’ll see how it all ends because I don’t trust it (the volcano) and I’m not totally sure it’s ever going to end.”

Lava flows have damaged or destroyed at least 2,910 buildings, according to the EU satellite monitoring system Copernicus, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes on the island, part of the subtropical Canaries archipelago.

(Reporting by Marco Trujillo and Borja Suárez; writing by Emma Pinedo; editing by Nathan Allen, Mark Heinrich and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Austria allows broad lifting of lockdown, but many provinces hold off

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria will let a wide range of businesses, from non-essential shops to theatres, restaurants and hairdressers reopen when its COVID-19 lockdown ends on Sunday, the government said on Wednesday, but many regions will open up more cautiously.

The move means switching from a single set of rules for the whole country to a patchwork varying between nine provinces. Adding to the confusion, those opening up the fastest included the western provinces of Vorarlberg and Tyrol, which have the highest and fourth-highest infection rates in the country.

“Some (provinces) will act gradually over time, and Burgenlend, Vorarlberg and Tyrol will (immediately) adopt this federal arrangement,” Tyrol’s governor, Guenther Platter, told a joint news conference with Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.

Vorarlberg and Tyrol are Alpine provinces that rely heavily on winter tourism. Hotels across Austria have been closed to tourists during lockdown, though ski lifts are open.

Austria went into lockdown two weeks ago to counter a surge in daily coronavirus infections to record levels. Infections have plunged but intensive-care bed occupancy is still rising. The government pledged when the lockdown was introduced that it would last no longer than 20 days, until this Sunday.

The list of businesses that can reopen from Sunday applies provided the local province is not keeping tighter restrictions. The province of Upper Austria, which long had Austria’s highest infection rate and borders both Germany and the Czech Republic, plans to stay in lockdown until Dec. 17.

Vienna will only let cafes and restaurants fully reopen a week after the national lockdown lifts, while non-essential shops and Christmas markets will reopen from Monday. Austrian media said three other provinces would take a similar approach, only letting hotels and restaurants reopen on Friday, Dec. 17.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alex Richardson)

Man with gun outside U.N. in New York surrenders to police

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A man who held an apparent shotgun to his neck near the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday is in police custody and poses no threat, the New York City police department said.

Live news video showed the man surrendering to police outside the fence around the UN compound on Manhattan’s East Side.

“The individual is now in custody and there is NO THREAT to the public,” the New York Police Department tweeted.

The U.N. complex was temporarily put on lockdown on Thursday as police responded to the incident. Before turning himself in, the man paced back and forth by the fence and left several notebooks on the sidewalk, which were taken by police in heavy armor.

As traffic was diverted from the area, police tried to establish a dialogue with the man, who appeared to be his 60s, an NYPD spokesman said.

“We have absolutely zero indication that this person is a staff member or former staff member or in any way linked to the U.N.,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Dujarric said an initial full lockdown was partially eased by early afternoon with the reopening of a separate entrance.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Katharine Jackson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)

Slovakia follows Austria into lockdown amid record surge in COVID cases

By Robert Muller and Jason Hovet

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovakia’s government followed the example of neighboring Austria on Wednesday and ordered a two-week lockdown to quell the world’s fastest rise in COVID-19 cases as the number of people sick in hospital reached a critical level and vaccination levels remain low.

Restaurants and non-essential shops will close as part of the measures and movement will be limited to trips for essential shopping, work, school or medical visits, along with walks in nature, government officials said.

Slovakia on Tuesday registered more than 10,000 new daily infections for the first time since the pandemic started, while hospitalizations hit what the Health Ministry called a “critical point” that meant limiting other care and possibly asking for foreign assistance.

“The situation is serious,” Prime Minister Eduard Heger said. “We got here because the (existing) measures were not observed.”

Adjusted for population size, Slovakia is experiencing the world’s fastest rise in infections, according to Our World in Data, topping a list currently led by other European countries.

The neighboring Czech Republic and Hungary both registered a record daily rise in cases on Tuesday, while Austria also implemented a total lockdown this week, shutting non-essential shops, bars and cafes for at least 10 days.

Slovakia’s decision to return to a lockdown comes after the government already slapped new restrictions on unvaccinated people this week in a bid to push up inoculations. Before that, the country had been gradually tightening restrictions in regions hard-hit as cases have jumped over the past month.

Heger said measures would be assessed after 10 days and any loosening would only be for the vaccinated.

Less than 50% of people in the country of 5.5 million are fully vaccinated, the third-lowest rate in the European Union. The unvaccinated count for the majority of cases and hospitalizations.

President Zuzana Caputova made an emotional plea on Tuesday, saying the country was losing its fight with COVID-19 and needed a lockdown as healthcare staff became overworked.

The number of hospitalized patients has reached 3,200, approaching peaks of around 3,800 seen in the last wave of the pandemic.

Dagmar Sudekova, deputy director of the Zilina hospital in one of the harder hit regions, told the state broadcaster RTVS on Tuesday evening more than 80% of patients were unvaccinated and the hospital’s ventilation and high-flow oxygen beds were full.

“We just manage with the help of neighboring hospitals,” she said.

(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Hugh Lawson)

Czechs, Slovaks target unvaccinated people in step behind Austria

By Jiri Skacel

PRAGUE (Reuters) -The Czech Republic and Slovakia banned unvaccinated people from hotels, pubs, hairdressers and most public events from Monday after COVID-19 cases filled hospitals’ intensive care wards, with most of the seriously ill patients not inoculated.

The central European neighbors both adopted the new measures last week, a step behind Austria which first set restrictions on unvaccinated people but went for a full lockdown on Monday as the region experienced the world’s latest hotspot.

The countries took the decision as daily infections reach new records and inoculation rates lag most European Union peers.

Slovakia has the bloc’s third-lowest rate at 46.8%, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), while 60% of the Czech population has at least one dose of the vaccine.

Debate over a possible return to lockdown measures for both vaccinated and unvaccinated is growing, with Slovak news website Dennik N reporting the government could debate a proposal at a Wednesday meeting, following Austria.

Slovakia’s ruling coalition could be split however, and in the Czech Republic, ruling politicians have spoken out against a lockdown even as the Czech Medical Chamber called for one.

Many businesses fear a return to harsher restrictions like a year ago when most shops and restaurants had to close doors in the run-up to Christmas holidays.

“I believe that we are going into another lockdown… so this Christmas will be very similar to the last one,” Jakub Olbert said at one of the seasonal markets in Prague he organizes and supplies.

He said the number of vendors at other Christmas markets had already been halved by distancing requirements, hitting business.

The Czech government was due on Monday to discuss calling a state of emergency, allowing it to order medical students to help at strained hospitals where soldiers have already been dispatched in some places. The state of emergency framework could also be used for any possible lockdown later.

Under new measures, only people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months can visit restaurants, hotels, services or public events like sports games.

In large parts of Slovakia, the government ordered restaurants to close to all inhouse meals and serve-take out meals only, as well as restricting access to services for the unvaccinated.

Analysts have so far said the economic hit from the new Czech restrictions could be limited.

Vaclav Starek, president of the country’s Association of Hotels and Restaurants, said the main thing was keeping businesses running even if they need to face limitations.

The COVID-19 surge in the Czech Republic comes amid a transfer of power after an October election although both the outgoing and incoming administrations have spoken against lockdowns, especially of schools.

A demonstration against any form of lockdown was planned outside Prague Castle on Monday.

(Reporting by Jiri Skacel, Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Austria locks down unvaccinated as COVID cases surge across Europe

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria imposed a lockdown on people unvaccinated against the coronavirus on Monday as winter approaches and infections rise across Europe, with Germany considering tighter curbs and Britain expanding its booster program to younger adults.

Europe has again become the epicenter of the pandemic, prompting some countries to consider re-introducing restrictions in the run-up to Christmas and stirring debate over whether vaccines alone are enough to tame COVID-19.

The disease spreads more easily in the winter months when people gather inside.

Europe last week accounted for more than half of the 7-day average of infections globally and about half of latest deaths, according to a Reuters tally, the highest levels since April last year when the virus was at its initial peak in Italy.

Governments and companies are worried the prolonged pandemic will derail a fragile economic recovery.

Austria’s conservative-led government said that about two million people in the country of roughly nine million were now only allowed to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons like travelling to work or shopping for essentials.

But there is widespread skepticism, including among conservatives and the police, about how the lockdown can be enforced – it will be hard to verify, for example, whether someone is on their way to work, which is allowed, or going to shop for non-essential items, which is not.

“My aim is very clear: to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, not to lock up the unvaccinated,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told ORF radio as he explained the lockdown, which was announced on Sunday.

The aim is to counter a surge in infections to record levels fueled by a full vaccination rate of only around 65% of the population, one of the lowest in western Europe.

Pensioner Susanne Zwach said the lockdown would be “very, very difficult” to police.

“It is definitely a way of introducing a requirement to get vaccinated through the back door,” she said as she waited in line for her booster shot.

‘STORM OF INFECTION’

Germany’s federal government and leaders of Germany’s 16 states are due to discuss new pandemic measures this week.

Three German state health ministers urged parties negotiating to form a new government to prolong the states’ power to implement stricter measures such as lockdowns or school closures as the seven-day COVID incidence rate hit record highs.

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged unvaccinated people to reconsider their decision in a video message on Saturday.

“Difficult weeks lie ahead of us, and you can see that I am very worried,” Merkel said, speaking in her weekly video podcast.

France, the Netherlands and many countries in Eastern Europe are also experiencing a surge in infections.

Britain is to extend its COVID-19 booster vaccine rollout to people between 40 and 49, officials said on Monday, to boost waning immunity ahead of the colder winter months.

Currently all people 50 and over, those who are clinically vulnerable and frontline health workers are eligible for boosters.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he saw no need to move to a “Plan B” of mask mandates and vaccine passes, even though he was cautious of rising infections in Europe.

“We’re sticking with Plan A,” he said in a broadcast clip on Monday. “But what we certainly have got to recognize is there is a storm of infection out there in parts of Europe.”

Back in Austria, skepticism about vaccines is encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament, which is planning a protest against the government’s coronavirus policies on Saturday.

Party head Herbert Kickl, 53, said in a Facebook posting he had tested positive for COVID-19. He has mild symptoms and no fever but will not be able to attend Saturday’s protest because of quarantine requirements.

(Additional reporting by Lisi Niesner in Vienna, Josephine Mason and Alistair Smout in London, Emilio Parodi in Milan and Victoria Waldersee and Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Writing by Nick Macfie, Editing by William Maclean and Philippa Fletcher)

Austrian lockdown for the unvaccinated is days away, chancellor says

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria is days away from placing millions of people not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on lockdown, as daily infections are at a record high and intensive-care units are increasingly strained, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday.

Around 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the lowest rate of any Western European country apart from tiny Liechtenstein, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data.

Many Austrians are skeptical about vaccinations, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.

Under an incremental government plan agreed in September, once 30% of intensive-care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, people not vaccinated against the coronavirus will be placed under lockdown, with restrictions on their daily movements. The current level is 20% and rising fast.

“According to the incremental plan we actually have just days until we have to introduce the lockdown for unvaccinated people,” Schallenberg told a news conference in the westernmost province of Vorarlberg, adding that Austria’s vaccination rate is “shamefully low.”

The conservative-led government said on Friday it was banning the unvaccinated from restaurants, theatres, ski lifts and providers of “services close to the body” like hairdressers.

“A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one’s home unless one is going to work, shopping (for essentials), stretching one’s legs – namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020,” Schallenberg said, referring to three national lockdowns last year.

Centrist opposition parties have accused the government of doing too little for months to boost vaccination levels and keep infections in check.

Some conservatives have argued that a lockdown for the unvaccinated would be unenforceable. Schallenberg said the police would conduct spot checks.

The surge in Austria comes at a time when Eastern European states, with the continent’s lowest vaccination rates, are experiencing some of the world’s highest daily death tolls per capita. Dutch experts on Thursday recommended a two-week partial lockdown, which would be Western Europe’s first since vaccines were widely deployed, and other countries are requiring vaccination certificates to enter public spaces.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Peter Graff)

Moscow locks down as Russian COVID-19 deaths surge to new highs

By Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Russian capital brought in its strictest COVID-19 related lockdown measures in more than a year on Thursday as nationwide one-day pandemic deaths and infections hit new highs amid slow vaccination take-up across the world’s biggest country.

Moscow’s partial lockdown, in which only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets are allowed to remain open and schools and state kindergartens are shut, comes ahead of a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct. 30.

Like Moscow, some regions decided to kick off their partial lockdowns on Thursday or even earlier in an effort to cut infection numbers ahead of the nationwide initiative.

Moscow’s residents are allowed to leave their homes unlike a sweeping lockdown in summer 2020, but the new measures point to rising concern among officials over record numbers of deaths that the Kremlin has blamed on vaccine hesitancy.

Officials on Thursday reported an all-time high of 1,159 COVID-19 nationwide deaths in the past 24 hours, while the number of daily infections broke through the 40,000 barrier for the first time.

At the State Duma lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker, proposed requiring all lawmakers to get vaccinated and suggested that stragglers should have to work remotely.

“Imagine the consequences for the country if parliament stops working,” Volodin told the lower house. “Every day we’re seeing how our … colleagues are ending up in hospital beds,” he said.

His proposal was met by angry shouts from the parliament’s chamber with someone calling out: “What kind of PR is this?”

Many Russians have said they are reluctant to get vaccinated and have spurned the four vaccines Russia has registered, including the flagship Sputnik V vaccine.

Some people say they are hesitant due to mistrust of the authorities, while others cite concerns about the safety of vaccines.

As of Oct. 22, official data showed that 49.1 million Russians were fully vaccinated. The total population, excluding annexed Crimea, is officially estimated at around 144 million.

AD CAMPAIGN RELAUNCH?

The daily Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday that the Kremlin planned to revamp the troubled public information campaign about the importance of getting vaccinated.

The new campaign would pay closer attention to Russia’s more than 80 regions and strike a less aggressive and negative tone than previously, the report said.

The existing campaign has often highlighted the risk of death for Russians who decline to get vaccinated rather than linking vaccination to the freedom to be exempt from lockdown-style restrictions, it said.

However, the Kremlin denied it planned to relaunch the ad campaign, but said the strategy was constantly being adjusted and that the campaign would be continued.

Many Russians have decided that now is an ideal time to fly off for a foreign beach holiday instead of hunkering down at home.

There were mixed feelings about the lockdown on the streets of Moscow on Thursday. Some residents like Lyubov Machekhina said they thought it would obviously help slow infections.

But others like Mikhail, a Muscovite who did not give his surname, voiced doubts that there would be any real impact without a larger chunk of the population being vaccinated.

“In my opinion, it will change nothing. Perhaps, it will slow down (the spread of cases) a bit, but in fact, without herd immunity – it’s nonsense. I don’t believe it will work.”

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Lev Sergeev, Anton Zverev, Gleb Stolyarov and Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Andrew Osborn)

Latvia announces four weeks of lockdown as COVID-19 cases spike

RIGA (Reuters) -Latvia announced a COVID-19 lockdown from Oct. 21 until Nov. 15 to try to slow a spike in infections in one of the least vaccinated European Union countries.

“Our health system is in danger … The only way out of this crisis is to get vaccinated,” Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said after an emergency government meeting, blaming low vaccination rates for the spike in hospitalizations.

Only 54% of Latvian adults have been fully vaccinated, well below EU average of 74%, EU figures show.

“I have to apologize to the already vaccinated,” Karins said, announcing that shops, restaurants, schools and entertainment will be closed, with only essential services available and a curfew in place from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Only essential manufacturing, construction and critical jobs will be allowed to continue in person.

One of the two largest Riga hospitals began installing makeshift beds for COVID-19 patients in its atrium to cope with the influx, the national broadcaster reported.

No travel restrictions were announced “since infection rates elsewhere are much lower, and we don’t see immediate risks,” Karins said.

New cases in Latvia increased by 49% in the week to Sunday, its health authority said, according to the BNS wire.

The Latvian government cancelled most planned hospital operations last week amid an increased need for beds and staff as COVID-19 cases climb.

The country had reported the second-worst infection numbers in the EU, after neighbor Lithuania, in the fortnight to Oct. 10, with 864 new cases per 10,000 people.

Latvian President Egils Levits tested positive last week, prompting Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto, who had had breakfast with Levits a day earlier, to self-isolate.

(Reporting by Janis Laizans, writing by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, editing by Chris Reese and Giles Elgood)